Last week The New York Times and The Guardian reported that the National Security Agency has weakened or broken the online encryption relied upon by hundreds of millions of Americans to protect their private data.
According to these reports, the NSA has covertly weakened the computer security protocols that American citizens and businesses rely on. The NSA has surreptitiously obtained the encryption keys used by major corporations to protect online data. And the NSA has demanded that manufacturers insert "back doors" into computer systems to enable secret government eavesdropping.
It's as though the NSA had secretly copied the keys to your home. Worse, it's as though the NSA had prohibited manufacturers from even making secure locks -- all while assuring the public that of course their belongings were safe.
Although the NSA's goal may have been to allow the U.S. government to spy on communications, by introducing vulnerabilities into widely used computer hardware and software, the NSA would be rendering all communications vulnerable to criminals and foreign intelligence agencies. Anyone can walk through an open door if they can find it.
Earlier this year I introduced legislation, the Surveillance State Repeal Act, that would make it illegal for the NSA to coerce developers to include "back doors" in computer hardware or entry points in software. These revelations give that proposal new urgency.
Next Steps Forward in Syria
President Obama's speech to the nation this week about the situation in Syria was both timely and necessary. I welcome his call for a delay in Congressional consideration of an authorization for the use of military force.
I am pleased that the President has dispatched Secretary of State Kerry to meet with his Russian counterpart in Europe to explore whether the proposal to verifiably disarm Syria of its chemical weapons can be successfully implemented. As we learned after the 1991 Persian Gulf War, the best way to ensure a rogue nation is reliably disarmed of its weapons of mass destruction is through intrusive, internationally supervised on-site inspections.
If the proposal works, it would be the best way to eliminate safely Bashar al-Assad's chemical weapons arsenal without risking either American or Syrian lives in a military campaign.
Deadline to Register for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund
It has been twelve years since that terrible day when nearly 3,000 of our fellow citizens perished in an unprovoked series of attacks on our nation. And while the key perpetrators of that horror are now themselves either dead or in our custody, the pain and the heroism of Americans on that day is something we must never forget.
In 2009, I helped pass the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act establishing a fund to to compensate for physical harm or death caused by the attacks of September 11, 2001. Potential claimants include first responders; cleanup workers; construction and sanitation personnel; and individuals who lived, worked, or volunteered in the areas of the crashes at the World Trade Center site, the Pentagon site, and the Shanksville, Pennsylvania site.
If you believe you may be eligible for compensation, it is important to register by the October 3, 2013 deadline. Registration is very easy and requires answering only a few questions. The website VCF.gov includes detailed information on the registration deadline and a link to register online, or you can call toll-free 1-855-885-1555.
Member of Congress